Yahoo prodigy Nick D’Aloisio ponders his future
SUNNYVALE Born in the same year Yahoo was incorporated, 19 year old might be the perfect public face for the aging tech company’s make or break push to stake its future on mobile devices.
D’Aloisio was 15 when he created what would become the popular iPhone app Summly from his London home, 17 when Yahoo spent $30 million to buy the news summarization technology and 18 when he transformed his concept into Yahoo News Digest.
The part time Yahoo product manager who became a full time Oxford University cheap jerseys from china student this fall remains at the vanguard of CEO Marissa Mayer’s mobile development team nearly two years after the acquisition. His startup was one of dozens Mayer swallowed up as she seeks to transform Yahoo from a stale Web pioneer to an agile mobile competitor with appeal to D’Aloisio’s youthful peers.
“Any company would have counted itself happy to have him,” said scientist David Israel of Menlo Park based nonprofit research institute SRI International, who spent six months in 2012 working with D’Aloisio on improving his original Summly algorithm. “There’s lots of kids who are very good coders and programmers now. What was striking about him was he was driven by the vision of the product he wanted to put in users’ hands. That was impressive, frankly, for a 16 and a half year old kid.”Clad in green skinny jeans and a mustard yellow shirt with white polka dots during a recent visit, D’Aloisio (pronounced Da LOY see oh) kept his eyes on his smartphone as he strolled mostly unnoticed through Yahoo’s San Francisco branch office. He was spending a week in Silicon Valley meeting with executives and collaborating with his colleagues on the digest team, “getting very meticulous,” he said, on their latest mission to develop a version that will appear on AppleWatch when the wearable device launches next year.
“It’s been very fun,” D’Aloisio said this week of his time commuting to Sunnyvale from London. “I still have work to be done with the digest. I’ve been given such a big opportunity, I don’t want to waste that.”
Bright, eloquent, confident, but without displaying the awkward egotism that sometimes afflicts Silicon Valley prodigies and self made millionaires, D’Aloisio and his vision were coveted by Yahoo executives looking to tap into the consumer preferences of the “mobile only” generation he represents.
It was both D’Aloisio’s algorithms and his attention to aesthetics that led Mayer to hire him to transform his Summly concept into the digest.
,19, at Yahoo in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. D’Aloisio was a teen prodigy when Yahoo bought his Summly app in 2013 as he became one of the world’s youngest self made millionaires. (JOHN GREEN)
“He really kind of carries the vision for his product and helps orchestrate the engineering and design team to go after that vision,” said Adam Cahan, Yahoo’s senior vice president of mobile development. “He’s really cheap jerseys expressing his own desires and users’ desires and translating that.”
The app went against the grain of increasingly time consuming mobile feeds by being clean and compact, allowing the same kind of satisfaction a reader might get from finishing a morning newspaper and feeling up to speed on the day’s most important happenings. Limited to 10 hand picked stories and updated twice a day, and with metrics showing the user on average spends just two minutes reading it, the digest fit in with Mayer’s focus on making Yahoo a go to site for what she called “daily habits,” from checking the weather and sports scores to playing games.
“We decided to simplify it, get rid of live streams, get rid of infinite scrolling, live text,” D’Aloisio said last week. “We wanted to have this idea of completion, this idea of finitude.”
Israel, 71 and “old enough to be his grandfather,” said he was impressed early on with D’Aloisio’s maturity and entrepreneurial impulses. But he was one of several mentors who persuaded D’Aloisio to go back to school.
“Even before the acquisition, I urged him not to follow Peter Thiel’s advice,” said Israel, referring to the billionaire entrepreneur’s suggestion that promising young people drop out of school to pursue their business ideas. “I urged him to go to college, get a degree. He was thinking Oxford or Cambridge.”
D’Aloisio took a break from Yahoo and spent this fall in class debating the ideas of philosophers David Hume, Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant while also studying logic, probability, statistics and discrete mathematics for a dual major in computer science and philosophy.
“I’m really, really loving Oxford,” he said. “It was founded in like twelve hundred and something. . It’s very juxtaposed to the valley, very different.”
D’Aloisio made an arrangement with Yahoo to only work on its products in between his school terms. That leaves him a few weeks to complete the AppleWatch app and other undisclosed projects before his January exams.
The big question is what happens next. Even he isn’t sure what he will be doing in the coming years and if that will include finishing his degree, staying with Yahoo or jumping into a new business venture.
“There’s a fantasy in my head about becoming some philosopher,” he said. “That would be amazing. But I think I’m too passionate about building things. I just inherently have been. I’d want to wholesale nhl jerseys china try that first.”
He said his “dream scenario” is founding and building up his own big company, possibly involving artificial intelligence and neural networks. Whatever he does, Israel is pretty sure the technology world will be paying attention.
“I would be very surprised if one did not hear more about him over the next 20, 30 years,” Israel said.
Hometown: London, United Kingdom
Occupation: Part time Yahoo product manager cheap nhl jerseys china working on Yahoo News Digest; full time student at Oxford University studying philosophy and computer scienceArticles Connexes：